An Agonistic Approach to Technological Conflict

Eugen Octav Popa*, Vincent Blok, Renate Wesselink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Traditional approaches to conflict are oriented towards establishing (or re-establishing) consensus, either in the form of a resolution of the conflict or in the form of an ‘agree-to-disagree’ standstill between the stakeholders. In this paper, we criticize these traditional approaches, each for specific reasons, and we propose and develop the agonistic approach to conflict. Based on Chantal Mouffe’s agonistic democratic theory, the agonistic approach to conflict is more welcoming of dissensus, replacing discussion stoppers with discussion starters and replacing standstills with contestation. We illustrate such replacements and develop this approach, we analyse technological conflicts in a concrete R&D setting: the global hydrogen economy. From this context, we focus on the conflict between the proponents of blue hydrogen (drawn from fossil fuels) and those of green hydrogen (created through electrolysis). We conclude by highlighting the advantage of the agonistic approach but also drawing attention to its own specific risk, namely, antagonism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)717-737
Number of pages21
JournalPhilosophy and Technology
Issue number4
Early online date8 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Agonism
  • Chantal Mouffe
  • Conflict
  • Consensus
  • Hydrogen economy


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